Upon blue-light irradiation, the bacterium Halorhodospira halophila is able to modulate the activity of its flagellar motor and thereby evade potentially harmful UV radiation. The 14 kDa soluble cytosolic photoactive yellow protein (PYP) is believed to be the primary mediator of this photophobic response, and yields a UV/Vis absorption spectrum that closely matches the bacterium's motility spectrum. In the electronic ground state, the para-coumaric acid (pCA) chromophore of PYP is negatively charged and forms two short hydrogen bonds to the side chains of Glu-46 and Tyr-42. The resulting acid triad is central to the marked pH dependence of the optical-absorption relaxation kinetics of PYP. Here, we describe an NMR approach to sequence-specifically follow all tyrosine side-chain protonation states in PYP from pH 3.41 to 11.24. The indirect observation of the nonprotonated 13C γ resonances in sensitive and well-resolved two-dimensional 13C- 1H spectra proved to be pivotal in this effort, as observation of other ring-system resonances was hampered by spectral congestion and line-broadening due to ring flips. We observe three classes of tyrosine residues in PYP that exhibit very different pK a values depending on whether the phenolic side chain is solvent-exposed, buried, or hydrogen-bonded. In particular, our data show that Tyr-42 remains fully protonated in the pH range of 3.41-11.24, and that pH-induced changes observed in the photocycle kinetics of PYP cannot be caused by changes in the charge state of Tyr-42. It is therefore very unlikely that the pCA chromophore undergoes changes in its electrostatic interactions in the electronic ground state. © 2012 Biophysical Society.
Oktaviani, N. A., Pool, T. J., Kamikubo, H., Slager, J., Scheek, R. M., Kataoka, M., & Mulder, F. A. A. (2012). Comprehensive determination of protein tyrosine pK a values for photoactive yellow protein using indirect 13C NMR spectroscopy. Biophysical Journal, 102(3), 579–586. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2011.12.024